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Witsell Gives Lecture to Clinton School for Public Service, Retraces Nuttall's Journey Through Arkansas

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Thursday, November 21, 2019

ANHC’s Chief of Research recently gave a public lecture entitled “Following Nuttall: A Bicentenary Interpretation of Thomas Nuttall’s Exploration of the Arkansas Territory” at the Clinton School for Public Service as part of their Speakers Series. The event was attended by 300 people and livestreamed.

The year 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of the great botanist and naturalist Thomas Nuttall’s year-long journey of discovery through the Arkansas Territory (present-day Arkansas and Oklahoma). Nuttall was the first trained naturalist to record observations and collect specimens in most of the territory. His first-hand account of this trip, later published as “A Journal of Travels into the Arkansas Territory in the Year 1819,” provides some of the earliest reliable information on the natural history of the region. These observations and his surviving botanical specimens are central to our understanding of what the region was like before settlement.

To commemorate the bicentennial of Nuttall’s trip, Theo has worked for the past several years on a “200 years later” reinterpretation of all the natural history observations Nuttall made in Arkansas Territory. This includes retracing Nuttall’s route using both historical and modern geospatial datasets, updating the nomenclature and taxonomy of all the plants and animals Nuttall mentions, and weaving Theo’s own observations gained over the past 24 years conducting fieldwork for the ANHC. The aim is to provide a detailed interpretation of Nuttall’s natural history observations, and discuss changes in the landscape since his trip, specifically as they relate to ecological and biological diversity.

If you missed the lecture or the livestream, a video is available on YouTube at .

Photos: Top -- A digital scan of the title page of Thomas Nuttall's "A Journal of Travels into the Arkansa(sic) Territory".

Middle -- Botanist and naturalist Thomas Nuttall.

Bottom -- A screenshot of the YouTube video of ANHC Chief of Research Theo Witsell's Clinton School for Public Service lecture.





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